I’ve just joined a creative writing group in my home village – the first meeting this morning.
It was an interesting and useful experience. Although I work sitting next to my wife as she writes her stand up comedy, I only tend to share my writing before and after. I’ll discuss ideas to get someone else’s creative input, and share my drafts to se if they work but while I actually write the creativity is between me and the keyboard without anyone else being involved until I have something I’m reasonably happy with.
Not that we have to do a running commentary as we do the exercises at the writer’s group: “now do I want to use subsume or abnegate in this sentence?”. However as the group only runs for an hour and we have about 15 minutes to do a live exercise the feedback is a lot more immediate than I’m used to – not least because even my short stories seem to come out at about 10,000 words so have a good few hours work in them.
The group all seem very nice – although it would have been good to allow either introductions or a chance to network or work together as part of the session to make it seem a bit less like school. There was at least one other newbie and most of us were older – understandable as it takes place during the day.
We had been given homework – writing a poem using half rhymes where the consonants are the same but the vowel sounds are different. Just like at school I had waited until the night before to do mine and I cheated by writing a half rhyme poem and writing a half rhyme poem. It does make me wonder if a lot of the self referential post modernists I love do that because they can’t think of anything outside writing to write about. Most of us had struggled as our brains have been programmed from school onwards to rhyme “properly”.
We read our efforts out at the start of the session. As someone who is used to being on stage in a band, and whose early career as journalist prepared me for having my work torn apart for no good reason, it didn’t really worry me. I can understand it making people nervous, however. We are setting ourselves up to be writers and while feedback in a supportive environment is great it is still a bit frightening. We all have the self critic in our heads saying “I think this is ok but do I really want to know if it’s rubbish.” It’s quite a brave thing to do.
After the tea break we had to write a short piece of prose in the second person – “You walked along the street” as opposed to “I walked,” or “he walked”. Again something which is a bit out of the comfort zone as most prose is written in the first or third person. My effort is below.
Next month’s homework is to write a piece of prose or poetry about a Picasso painting which we drew out of a hat (a print of – not the real thing). Mine appears to be Picasso’s Braveheart as the person seems to be wearing a kilt and Tam O’Shanter with blue face paint, although it is actually his portrait of Marie Therese Walter. The main challenge (again) will be doing 500 words rather than 5,000.
Did I enjoy it? Yes. Is it useful? Yes. Could it be better – more interactivity would be good – perhaps an Exquisite Corpse exercise. It does force you to work outside the box and your comfort zone, however, and that is always good.
SECOND PERSON NARRATIVE
You need to start writing things down. You forget things. Is your memory getting worse? Can you remember what you did five minutes ago?
Why did you come in to the kitchen? Oh yes, you can see the kettle is on and there is a mug next to it. Were you making tea or coffee. You like both but it’s morning and you usually have tea in the morning, don’t you.
You remember the first time you had tea. Your mum made it for you – lots of milk and sugar. “It’s time you started drinking tea, Joanna. I’ll teach you how to make it next. You can look after me for a change. You’ll thank you for showing you how to make a good cup of tea. Very important when you get a job.”
And it was, wasn’t it. Mr Bracknell loved your tea. You think you got your first promotion on the strength of your tea. Or rather lack of strength. Everyone else – all the other girls in the office – made it too strong. Nice and weak and sugary. That’s how Mr Bracknell liked it. How he liked his ladies too. You giggle to yourself.
You can remember it as though it were yesterday. In fact, better than yesterday. Everything blends together now doesn’t it. Now what did you come into the kitchen for, again. Oh yes, there’s a cup next to the kettle. You were making coffee, that was it.